Faces of the Forest Service

Meet Lauren Marshall

February 16th, 2018 at 10:15AM

A picture of Lauren Marshall
Lauren Marshall. (Photo by Blake Marshall.)

In the fourth grade, Lauren Marshall waded into the icy waters of Chesapeake Bay to fish out trash and take water samples. She remembers thinking, “I wonder if I could do this as a job?” As she grew older, she realized that one cannot protect ecosystems and all the benefits they provide without understanding the relationships people have with the natural world. This insight serves her well in her current role with the USDA Forest Service.

What do you do in the Forest Service and what is your favorite part of your job?
As a national manager for the Agency’s Urban & Community Forestry program, I help people connect with and manage the natural world right outside their front doors, from the trees that shade their houses to the National Forests that filter their water. To do this, I build and implement partnerships that make sure Americans have access to the resources, data, and tools they need to make sound decisions for their community forests based in the best available science. Working on behalf of the American people with an incredible network of Forest Service employees and partners to generate creative, efficient, effective solutions to problems facing our forests is what motivates me every day. Having a stakeholder tell me that something we did made their lives better or had a real impact on the land is the best feeling!

A picture of Lauren Marshall standing in front of a stack of cut trees.
Lauren visits an urban wood sort yard in Baltimore to explore opportunities for creating markets for this wood, which is often considered as waste. (Photo by Morgan Grove.)

I studied landscape architecture in graduate school. Good design is the translation between sound science, human preferences, and the way people and other living things experience a place. This appreciation of the connection between people and nature is also what drew me to the Forest Service. I began applying to positions through the Presidential Management Fellows program almost eight years ago. I love the multiple use mandate of the Forest Service, and our motto “Caring for the land and serving people” really resonates with me.

Where did you grow up?
I was raised in a Maryland suburb of Washington, D.C. and spent my free time playing in our neighborhood creek, hiking at the C&O Canal with our dog, or camping with my family. I feel so grateful to have grown up in an area that gave me access to both incredible free museums and great places to get outdoors!

Who or what inspired you growing up?
I have always been so inspired by my parents Peter and Linda. They taught me and my sisters the value of stewardship by example, whether they were caring for us or the broader world. I remember my father feeding the birds in our backyard, caring for injured wild animals, cleaning up trash as we walked our dog at a local lake, and picking splinters out of my hand after a particularly rough day of tree climbing. He is a person who has always thought about the way his actions impact other people and the world around him, and I try to emulate that in my own life.

My mother is a born care-giver with boundless love, compassion, and patience that she showers on all of those around her, plants and animals included. Albert Einstein once said, “There are only two ways to live your life: as though nothing is a miracle, or as though everything is a miracle.” My mother taught me that each new leaf, each delicious dinner can be awe-inspiring if you let it. I feel so fortunate that my parents, both of my sisters and their families all live back in the Washington, D.C. area now.

What do you like to do for fun on your free time?
I love cooking and eating good meals with family and friends; hiking in the woods with my husband Blake, our two-year-old daughter Amelie, and dog Nyssa; refinishing furniture; and curling up with a good book and one or more of my three cats.

Since having our daughter, the majority of my husband’s and my free time is spent hanging out with her, and it is the best! She loves learning about nature, and we love passing on the stewardship ethic instilled in both of us by our parents. Just last week we made pinecone bird feeders and taught her about caring for animals.

A picture of Lauren Marshall with her husband Blake and daughter Amelie at Great Falls.
Lauren Marshall with her husband Blake and daughter Amelie at Great Falls. (Photo by Linda Lesch.)

What is your highest personal and professional achievement?

I have been lucky to have had incredible mentors in my career and feel a strong responsibility to pay that forward. Now, I am proud to serve as a mentor to a few incredible people. I hope our time together can help them find a professional pathway that feels authentic and meaningful to them, but I often feel I learn more from them than they do from me. I have also helped to run the Presidential Management Fellows program for the last seven years and am so proud of the incredible people I have played even a small role in bringing into the agency. Ultimately, no matter what else happens in my career, my greatest long-term impact will be through helping other people find their professional footing.

How would you like the public to perceive the work we do at the Forest Service?
It seems to me that so often Americans think of our public lands, whether a National Forest, a state park, or an urban pocket park, as something that belongs to the government. But they are all of ours! I would love people to think of the Forest Service as a steward of our Nation’s forests on behalf of all of us, including future generations.

What are your future career goals?
I really just want to keep doing work that challenges me and feels like it will leave the world slightly better than I found it. 

Do you have any advice for someone wanting to serve their country as a Forest Service employee?
Be persistent and remember that you can always use volunteer service to round out your experiences.